Creating Access and Equity in Biking
By: Kaja Vang
March 31, 2021
Category: People of the Parks
This time of year, we get so excited for #30daysofbiking at Three Rivers. There are so many great trails to explore, and after a winter where many folks in our community have been cooped up inside, this 30-day biking challenge can be just the motivation needed to get out and get moving.
We also know that not everyone feels comfortable on bikes and trails. Our own research shows that in comparison to our region, there’s an underrepresentation of women and folks who identity as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) using the regional trail system within Three Rivers Park District. Our Community Engagement team is working to address those inequities.
Listening to the Community
The Community Engagement team’s goals around biking outreach were primarily created following a bike and trails listening session in September 2020 around barriers people face on regional and in-park trails. The session was jointly planned and facilitated by the Metropolitan Council and Three Rivers staff. We worked with six local bike organizations to brainstorm and collect feedback. The intention was to collaborate across agencies to create a broad vision of equitable trail use and to name the barriers and solutions to creating more equitable practices within our park district and across the region.
The barriers identified in the listening session include:
- Wayfinding can be intimidating, and trail technologies fail some users.
- Trails are designed with traditional users in mind.
- Each regional trail agency maintains and manages their trails differently, which can lead to a disconnected user experience.
- Parks and trails staff do not fully reflect the communities they serve.
- There is a lack of BIPOC-, LGBTQ+-, and women-centered spaces and programming.
Working with the Community
Three Rivers is working alongside BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women community members and organizations to address and remove these barriers. Our goals are to increase visitors’ sense of safety on our trails, create equitable access to our regional trails, and increase opportunities for cyclists of all levels, including those who do not know how to bike, are not familiar with the regional trail system, are curious about biking, and are becoming intermediate cyclists.
To kick off our 2020 biking engagement initiatives and the beginning of our biking engagement work, we worked with Bici Xicas (formerly Las Bici Chicas) to provide outreach to underrepresented communities in Hennepin County.
Bici Xicas is a cyclist collective led by and centering Black, Brown and Native women and femme-presenting people. The organization offers resources and support for communities of color to feel empowered on a bike.
From early spring through early winter 2020, we focused on providing bike maintenance and outfitting people with safety gear, including bike lights, locks and other equipment.
Working with Bici Xicas, we were able to:
- Provide free bike repairs to 72 members of the community. Eighteen of the 72 people registered virtually for their pick-up and drop-off bike repair services.
- Connect and partner with over 12 local organizations and business. Four of the 12 were new partnerships with various bike shops in the Twin Cities.
- Offer bike education opportunities to 10 Black, Indigenous and people of color who predominately identified as women or femmes.
Bici Xicas worked with not only BIPOC community members, but they were also able to serve people who speak Spanish as their primary language, children, single parents and people experiencing homelessness. Their free repair events were intentionally stationed in predominately Black, Brown and Native neighborhoods to better serve the community and increase access to bike-related opportunities. Most of the repairs and bike tune-ups conducted were for people who use bikes as their main form of transportation year-round. Additionally, bikes were donated to Bici Xicas to fix up and give to folks who needed a bike.
"Carmen, Erika, and Martika who had attended previous Bici Xicas events, decided they wanted to really dive into bike mechanics and help with the success of this big project. They withstood the elements outside while doing hands-on learning on basic bike mechanics and dedicating a lot of their time to this project during the span of 2 months.” - Pacha, founder of Bici Xicas
Expanding Engagement and Opportunities
In addition to our partnership with Bici Xicas, we've also hosted multiple bike engagement opportunities in partnership with Outdoor Latino MN. Outdoor Latino MN’s focus is on making the inhabitants of the Minnesota aware of the importance of living with nature and the use of green areas that the state of MN has. From June through September 2020, we hosted four events at which families and individuals could use the Three Rivers Park District bike fleet.
As we continue our bike engagement in 2021 and beyond, our focus is to build genuine relationships with individuals, organizations and park agencies to gain a deeper understanding of how to provide an authentic sense of belonging in our parks and on regional trails for all visitors.
When we include and integrate all people of various intersecting identities and experiences, we can create a more holistic solution to address the historical inequities within the biking industry and how it impacts the resources that go into bringing awareness, funding and opportunities to those who have been left out of what it means to be a cyclist.
Join Us for a #30DaysofBiking Scavenger Hunt
Starting April 1, join our #30daysofbiking digital scavenger hunt using the GooseChase app and complete missions on the regional trail system. Try to complete all of the missions, or just check off a few. How to play:
- Download the GooseChase app. It's free!
- Search for our game: 30 Days of Biking on Regional Trails (game code 3KXB66)
- Start your scavenger hunt!
To learn more about 30 Days of Biking across the state, visit the 30 Days of Biking website. If you are interested in partnering with Three Rivers around our 2021 bike outreach and engagement, or would like more information about the work we are doing, please contact Community Engagement Coordinator Kaja Vang at Kaja.Vang@ThreeRiversParks.org.
About the Author
Kaja Vang coordinates the Teen Council, Teen Engagement initiatives and the bike fleet here at Three Rivers. They also partner with local bike organizations and groups to provide more equitable access to bikes, trails and bike-related skills. During their free time, Kaja likes to watch TV shows that focus on alternative or parallel universes and always welcomes conversations surrounding astrology. Lastly, they are passionate about addressing inequities that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face – specifically queer and trans BIPOC – and being a part of the movement in investing in youth.
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